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Passing Through the Salar de Uyuni

2011 March 28
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

There are few places in this world that completely blow your mind. Places where you question whether or not you are still on Earth. Places where reality seems impossible. The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is one of them.

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At around 4,100 square miles, the Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. It was formed by prehistoric lakes, sits at an altitude of 12,000ft and is incredibly, incredibly flat: so flat that the average altitude variation is 1 meter over the entire area of the Salar.

The sight of it is surreal.

 

Imagine driving through a landscape where all you see is the white of the ground and the blue of the sky. Nothing visible for miles, nothing growing, nothing alive. No distinguishing patterns, no hills, no valleys, all perfectly flat, nothing but identical looking salt stretching in every single direction. You might as well be on a different planet as the only signs of civilization are the tracks made by Toyota Landcruisers and other SUVs crossing through the desolation.

  On our way through, I remember driving 40-50mph for a good hour and looking out the window and wondering if we had gone anywhere. Nothing changed around us. Just the same salt, salt, and more salt.

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But we found out that the Salar does have a few surprises. Our guide drove us to an “island” in the middle of the Salar where rock and gravel had pushed their way through the crust to form a sanctuary of sorts. This rugged and craggy outcrop was where cactus and other flora flourished, protected from the harsh, life-sucking salt. Climbing to the highest vista on this island gave you a panoramic view of the area. But there wasn’t much to see: the exact same view from down below, except you could see quite a bit further.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Alex at Incahuasi Island.

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One very cool thing about the flats was that because there were no identifying landmarks or other features to tell how far away something was, you could set up some very interesting photos:

Blowing away the crew.

Blowing away the crew.

Pat stepping on me.

Pat stepping on me.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

I’m a Jose Cuervo fairy.

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The Salar is one of those places that I’ll never forget. Every time I look at these photos, I can’t help but think of how far away and how different of a world I was in. The sights,the  sounds, the memories of good times and great people all come flooding back. And you know what? That’s the beautiful thing about traveling.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. March 28, 2011

    Did you taste the salt? Maybe a tequila shot with sal del salar and that bottle you’re floating over?

    • Paul permalink*
      March 28, 2011

      Hahah, we tried a bit of the salt and let me tell you, the table salt we eat is very refined.

      It might be hard to tell but the ground is very, very hard and it was quite painful to sit or kneel down on an area for long.

      But don’t worry, the Jose was finished shortly thereafter.

  2. April 6, 2011

    Hi, I just found your blog and loved your images of the salt flat. I was in the process of searching for some inspirational material to help me in a university assignment, and your pictures gave me great idea of something I would like to share on my blog. Seeing and experiencing amazing places like that is so different from reading about it in a book. Geography like that is so dramatic that it refreshes your sense of wonder in the world. Also, putting together a few words, and having a bit of fun with some of the images after the trip definitely helps to cement the memories.

    If you’ve already visited Australia, then great! But even if you have been down-under, I hope you might like a couple of pictures I took of some big wide open spaces from a trip I took in outback Australia. If you’ve got the time to check out my blog you might think this looks like another place worth putting on the must visit list!

    All the best, and happy travels, Brent.
    Brent recently posted..When you travel- you can learn with your feet!

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